09 October 2019 | Story Xolisa Mnukwa | Photo Barend Nagel
Braille Signage
Big on Braille: Members of the Kovsie community who are living with visual impairments can now access directions through the new braille system.

The University of the Free State (UFS) commemorate World Sight Day, which is celebrated annually on the second Thursday of October. The day has been set aside and aimed at drawing attention to blindness and vision. This was originally initiated by the #SightFirstCampaign of the Lions Club International Foundation in 2000. 
The university aims to contribute to the development and social justice of all students through the production of globally competitive graduates. Thus, the development and implementation of co-curricular programmes, activities, services, and mutual infrastructure will allow for humanising daily lived experiences among students, which are essential for universal access, student academic success, social behaviour, engagement, and an inclusive institutional culture.

With this in mind, the university rolled out a capital project that included the construction of tactile pathways with braille indicators on the pathways, designed to support and caution pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired. The indicators are universally accessible, because it includes Braille and text. The text then gives indications to new students who are also struggling to find their way around campus.

A UFS Bachelor of Social Sciences student who dreams of becoming a social worker, Tshegofatso Nkatlholang, who was born partially blind, but is now completely blind is motivated by the prospect of living a life where she has the ability to help the less fortunate. Her opinion of the construction and implementation of the new tactile pathways on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus is that they are extremely helpful. She went on to say, “That is my road, and I am grateful for a university that strives to operate an inclusive infrastructural environment where I don’t feel sidelined.”
Kovsie student Keamogetswe Mbele was born partially blind with very low vision, eventually losing her eyesight. She explained that she had no knowledge of the newly built braille indicators on the tactile pathways, but that she felt appreciative of the university’s initiative to constitute an inclusive academic and infrastructural environment for all students on campus. Motivated by her personal goals of independence and financial freedom, ‘Kamo’, as her peers refer to her, is determined to live a prosperous academic life throughout the course of her studies at the UFS.

According to Mookgo Moloi, a Kovsie student who was not born blind but gradually lost her sight at the age of 15, said, “Life on campus is very caring”. She reflected on the opportunities, as well as the technical and emotional support that the Center for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS) has provided her, which has made her academic career a lot easier, and more advantageous for her to graduate. 
CUADS further strives to facilitate, create opportunities, and enhance students’ understanding of multiple intersections and ways of being that are consistent with human rights and the principles of social justice.

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